With 2:35 showing on the clock at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Cincinnati Bengals lined up for an onside kick, minutes after Jermaine Gresham hauled in a 19-yard pass over the middle that closed Cincinnati's deficit to within six points against the Indianapolis Colts; a team that the Bengals have never beaten with Peyton Manning at quarterback.
Mike Nugent lifts his hand, signaling his army of ten that a charge is imminent. Go left? Go right? Nugent drops his hand and nudges the football up the middle while the Bengals converge on the live ball. Safety Tom Nelson recovers the football and Cincinnati has the football with 2:33 left in the game and only a six-point deficit.
Yet that play ended Mike Nugent's season, who suffered an ACL tear that required reconstructive knee surgery on his left knee. A long road was ahead.
Nugent began rehabilitation in January with the Bengals head of rehabilitation Nick Cosgray before the NFL lockout.
"Three hours a day," Nugent said of his rehab. "Obviously Nick knows what he's doing and I've talked to a lot of people since I've done this who have given me advice. Basically, you let the surgeon do his job and the rest is up to you. Your rehab is all up to you."
Nugent got on the field momentarily when the NFL lockout was lifted early during the NFL Draft, converting every attempt from a handful of tries. Nugent, punter Kevin Huber and long-snapper Clark Harris continued working together at the University of Cincinnati over the offseason.
Now Nugent is converting kicks in Georgetown, gearing up for another regular season as the team's primary place kicker yet to miss a field goal attempt. Near the end of practice, Nugent converted a 54-yard field goal on Saturday.
“It’s funny in practice half of it is for your confidence and the other half is for the team’s confidence. Coach Lewis isn’t going to want to kick a 54-yarder if we don’t make them in practice,” Nugent said. “I’m happy with the way my knee has been feeling.”